The changing nature of apprenticeships in the West Midlands over the last 100 years has been revealed.

A new study, compiled using 1911 census data and a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, reveals that apprenticeships will contribute around £3.5 billion to the West Midlands economy in 2014 and £34 billion to the UK economy as a whole.

The research by genealogy website and the University of Lincoln paints a compelling picture of how apprenticeships have changed during the last century.

The Ancestry and University of Lincoln research reveals significant changes to the sectors and roles apprentices are working in.

The sector that employed the most apprentices in 1911 was dressmaking, compared to health and social care today.

In contrast, engineering and construction apprenticeships feature as prominently today as they did in 1911.

The historical research also points to a change in the demographic of apprentices with women making up only 22 per cent of apprentices 100 years ago. Today they count for 55 per cent.

The West Midlands had 103,730 apprentices participating in 2012/13, 11 per cent of the UK total and, since 2010, two million people have started an apprenticeship in England in more than 170 industries including aerospace, fashion, broadcast media and finance.

Sue Husband, director of apprenticeships at the National Apprenticeship Service, said: "The employers of yesterday, like those of today, recognised the value of apprenticeships in equipping people with the skills businesses required.

"Today our apprentices enjoy quality apprenticeship frameworks, their training is funded by the Government and employers, their tools are provided, they have access to higher education, and they receive further support from employers through mentoring.

"We urge employers to take stock of what has been achieved in the last century and to consider how apprenticeships could contribute to their business and the wider economy in the years to come."

The top 10 sectors for apprenticeships, 1911

1. Dressmaking

2. Engineering

3. Carpentry

4. Drapery

5. Millinery

6. Fitting

7. Joinery

8. Tailoring

9. Plumbing

10. Printing

The top 10 sectors for apprenticeships, 2014

1. Health and social care

2. Business administration

3. Management

4. Hospitality and catering

5. Customer service

6. Children’s care, learning and


7. Retail

8. Construction skills

9. Engineering

10. Hairdressing